Pictured at left, the Olympic and Paralympic mascots for the 2012 London Games are intended to be futuristic beings, representative of the tech savvy times in which we are living. Wenlock and Mandeville are targeted at kids, who have already responded positively to their introduction. The beings each have a single eye made out of a camera lens, a London taxi light on their heads, and friendship bracelets modeled after the Olympic rings on their wrists. According to an article about Wenlock and Mandeville in the Times Online, imprinted merchandise featuring the two characters will include promotional apparel, keychains, toys, and an array of other items.
During the preliminary stages of selecting the London Games’ mascots, focus groups revealed that kids responded better to mascots with an interesting back story than they did to furry animals or humans. A popular childrens’ author, Michael Morpurgo, crafted an imaginative account of Wenlock and Mandeville’s origins, claiming that they evolved from the remaining drops of steel left over after the Olympic stadium was built. Already depicted in an animated film and book, event organizers may eventually base an animated series on the characters.
I have to admit that when I caught my first glimpse of Wenlock and Mandeville, I was confused and unimpressed. I could not envision the odd, alien-like mascots appealing to the masses. BUT- after learning more about why and how these characters were selected, I have a newfound appreciation for them.
Kids today are presented with so many innovative technologies and tools every day that advertisers have an increasingly tough time creating any sort of emotional connection with them. Interestingly enough, it appears that the whimsical web of stories associated with Wenlock and Mandeville struck a chord with young people everywhere. The initial reactions to Wenlock and Mandeville’s big reveal have been skeptical, but maybe the rest of us should take a cue from the open-minded youth population and look past the kooky costumes to see their underlying significance. The overarching purpose of the Olympics is to bring the world’s nations together to engage in friendly competition, and what better way to further this objective than by supporting the Games’ official mascots?